Maybe you share a vacation with your extended family once a year, maybe you always spend this holiday there or another one somewhere else, maybe every Friday is pizza night, or maybe you have a standing date night with your spouse.
All of these things are important to you. They’re values, even if they are informal ones. They aren’t framed on a wall somewhere; if other people do them differently, they’re not necessarily wrong, and you’re right. They’re just what you do here.
There’s often a reason behind certain habits and practices we implement. The same can be said of us as a church. There are informal values we have that guide how we operate and who we’re attempting to become.
What is prayer? Simply, prayer is a conversation with God. We’ve all heard someone say they’ll be praying for us, and that’s great. But some of us might’ve been the person who said they would pray for someone and then forgot to do it.
The things we think are important, we prioritize. The things we think are critically important, we do immediately.
This isn’t just a spiritual thing. It’s a life principle. Imagine walking into the kitchen, and there is a fire on the stovetop. No one would leave the kitchen with the fire blazing so they could go binge Netflix in the adjacent room. We would drop everything to take care of it because it’s critically important.
This seems obvious. But why do we delay certain things? It’s because our lives are really crowded, all of the time.
Many of the things in our lives that feel urgent aren’t actually important. And the really important things often don’t feel so urgent.
Think about that doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off or the light that’s been on in your car you still haven’t gotten checked out – it all brings us back to prayer.
We put off praying not because many of us don’t think it’s important, but because it doesn’t feel that urgent. And even when it does feel urgent, we don’t feel qualified to do it.
We’ve all been around people who, when they pray, it sounds like they’ve been practicing for weeks, or maybe we’ve experienced a tradition where all the prayers were written out.
The assumption that prayer has to be prepared or sound like this amazing, ground-breaking speech clouds our understanding of what prayer is.
Prayer is a conversation with God.
Conversation happens because it’s about the relationship. It’s not about being impressive or choosing the right words. It’s about the heart behind it. Jesus actually talked about people who tried to sound impressive in prayer and said not to be like them.
It’s where we need to shift our thinking.
What James is saying is, “Pray in all things.” Go to God with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
There’s nothing magic about “oil” and “the elders.” They don’t have special powers, but there is something powerful about bringing your struggles into the community where truth can be spoken into them.
The word “sick” can be translated as “weak.” It can be physical, but it can also be spiritual or emotional. When we feel weak or feel that struggle, we need to share it.
If we ALL confess our weakness, fallenness, or brokenness, it will drive us towards humility. This will be a very safe place where we can journey out of brokenness towards wholeness together.
There are no “righteous” or “sinners” categories here. There’s no group of special people in a back room somewhere waiting to rule on our lives. We’re ALL sinners whose only claim to anything better is Jesus.
Elijah spoke on behalf of God to kings – Ahab and Jezebel. In an epic, movie-style showdown, he confronted 850 prophets of Baal and other gods on Mt Carmel. 850 to 1. Fire came down from heaven. Then it began to rain. Iconic victory, right?
Jezebel sends word: “I’m going to kill you.” Elijah runs fast and far, throws an over-the-top pity party about how he’s all alone, and lays down under a tree and prays for death. Maybe not as awesome as we might think.
But that’s all of us. We’re part fighter, part runner. Big faith, big stuff, and then huge doubt. Three steps forward, two steps running backward. Part strong, part weak.
James says, “He’s just like you, and you’re just like him.”
Maybe there’s someone we all can look up to as a hero or person of incredible faith. James says, “When it comes to prayer, they’re exactly the same as you. Because it’s not about you or them; it’s about God.”
So, where can we go, and what can we do from here?
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